5 Underrated and Affordable Places to Visit Over the Holidays

There's still time to pull off a wallet-friendly escape.

By Lyn Mettler, ContributorDec. 6, 2016
By Lyn Mettler, ContributorDec. 6, 2016, at 10:19 a.m.
U.S. News & World Report

5 Underrated and Affordable Places to Visit Over the Holidays

Mayan Riviera Paradise in Cancun, Mexico.

Procrastinate on booking a winter getaway? You can snap up a deal in these cost-effective locales.(Getty Images)

Searching for airfares over winter break can make your stomach turn as flight prices quadruple what they are on average to many popular destinations. But not every place is out of reach during the holiday season. To help direct you to inexpensive retreats, U.S. News rounded up five of the most affordable destinations to visit this winter, taking into account the cost airfare, accommodations and activities. So, act quickly and book your trip to these underappreciated budget-friendly locales.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

At almost anytime of year, Myrtle Beach is a bargain. And with resort rates dropping to as low as $40 per night for oceanfront accommodations, the beach can definitely be within your budget this Christmas. The Grand Strand offers plenty of lodging options along its 60 miles of pristine beach, including the kid-friendly Crown Reef Beach Resort and Waterpark or Captain's Quarters Resort, which offers a bowling alley for cooler days, an indoor water park, arcades and more. If you're planning a romantic retreat, consider checking into the hip hotel BLUE, which features wide sundecks, an indoor lazy river and whirlpool and several restaurants and bars.

Several low-cost discount airlines fly into Myrtle Beach, including Allegiant Air, Elite Airways and Spirit Airlines, as well as major airlines such as Delta Air Lines and American Airlines. There's also plenty of free and cost-effective activities to enjoy this winter, including strolling the boardwalk, browsing outlet malls and major shopping districts and walking on the beach on sunny days.

Las Vegas

Travelers can easily secure budget-friendly rates at many Las Vegas hotels this holiday season. Luxor Las Vegas, a three-star hotel, is currently offering nightly rates starting at $56.33 for three-night stays from Dec. 23-26. Another cost-effective accommodation option is New York-New York Hotel & Casino. And at America's Playground, there's plenty to entertain you, from the endless rows of themed resorts and casinos along the neon-lit Strip, from Caesar's Palace to The Venetian Las Vegas. Plus, there are plenty of attractions and dining options that are easy on the wallet. And why not enjoy a Christmas dinner at one of Vegas' world-famous inexpensive buffets? To snag affordable plane tickets, search for flights on low-cost carriers such as Southwest Airlines, Allegiant, Spirit or Sun Country Airlines, which offer routes from many popular hubs across the U.S.

Fort Myers, Florida

Southwest Airlines offers low fares from many cities to Fort Myers' airport, Southwest Florida International Airport, which serves many popular areas such as Naples, Marco Island and Cape Coral. Travelers who hold the coveted Southwest Companion Pass can even fly one person with them for free to score an even better deal. What's more, rates at The Westin Cape Coral Resort at Marina Village start at $87 in December, while the Crowne Plaza Fort Myers offers nightly rates starting at $163 around Christmastime. With temperatures reaching the upper 70s in December and January, Fort Myers' weather is perfect for sunbathing along the area's beautiful white-sand beaches. Shelling is also a popular pastime, so carve out some time for beachcombing.

Playa de Carmen, Mexico

Playa de Carmen makes an affordable holiday escape with many accommodation rates roughly 15 percent lower than they were over the holidays last year, according to data from Expedia. This tropical Mexican getaway, located in the Maya Riviera near Cancún, offers hotel deals starting at just more than $100 per night at multiple resorts in December. Plus, you can easily clinch an affordable flight into Cancún International Airport, which is served by budget-friendly carriers such as Southwest, Allegiant and Frontier. When you're not enjoying outdoor pursuits, such as snorkeling, zip lining and touring of Mayan ruins, shop for souvenirs along 5th Avenue, which offers everything from flea markets to shopping malls.

Sevierville, Tennessee

Christmas in the Smoky Mountains is a festive and heart-warming experience, but it doesn't need to be expensive. Sevierville, the small mountain town where Dolly Parton grew up, is set in a valley on the edge of the Smokies and offers excellent spot to cozy up in a cabin for Christmas. Cabin rates run between $40 to $160 per night depending on location, size and amenities, and because Sevierville is located within a day's drive of more than half of Americans, it's easy to reach the town by car and take advantage of low gas prices. Over the holidays, the town is decked out in holiday lights displays with festively adorned store windows. Aside from strolling past elaborate storefront displays, other activities include checking out nearby Dollywood, shopping at local antique stores, boutiques and outlet malls and enjoying hiking and fishing in the great outdoors. During your visit, don't forget to snap a selfie with the famous Dolly statue at Sevier County Courthouse.

When it comes to booking airfare over the holidays, Expedia senior editor Sarah Gavin recommends purchasing at least seven to 13 days ahead of departure to score the best deal. She also suggests bundling flights, hotel and car rentals together for additional savings. Keep in mind, however, that many hotels, including major chains, offer the lowest rates and added benefits like free Wi-Fi for direct bookings.

Lyn Mettler, Contributor

Lyn Mettler is the hotels contributor to U.S. News and also writes about destinations, ...  Read more

About En Route

Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.

Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.

Edited by Liz Weiss.

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